Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tomato and Bell Pepper Salad

Moon River by Andy Williams
Today's recipe comes from a comment left by my Aunt Linda a few weeks ago.  When I was a little kid we often had family gatherings and they are some of my most cherished childhood memories.  These memories come with a soundtrack in my mind, no surprise!  I actually have a playlist in my iTunes library titled "Marvelous Matriarch Mentors" which contains 27 songs that remind me of my aunts and grandmothers.  It's heavy on the Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, Elvis, and, my personal favorite, Bobby Vinton, but any song of the 60s would fit.  I actually had another song ready to go for this post but then last night I read about the passing of Andy Williams.  Andy Williams and his music and TV shows are as much a part of the fabric of that era as any other song.  To pay tribute to him, I'm going to go with Moon River today, that beautiful and haunting tune written by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini - and crooned to perfection by Williams.  Doubters, and fans, can watch him sing this song on this YouTube video.  Grab some of those tomatoes out of your garden and take a trip back to my childhood in the 60s.

Family gatherings in my childhood were usually potluck affairs.  All the women were wonderful cooks and the serving table held all sorts of flavorful salads and side dishes.  Grandpa would have his chickens on the rotisserie and everyone would be driven wild with the smell of it all.  We ate well at those gatherings - very well!

I remember my favorite place was hanging near where the women were visiting.  They'd laugh and cackle, each one of them a natural storyteller, making something as routine as going to the store sound like an event.  I can scarcely think of a childhood memory without them in it somewhere.  I was a very lucky little girl!

Last month my Aunt Linda left a comment on my post about the Fresh Tomato Bruschetta.  That dish had reminded her of a salad my grandmother used to make which was very similar.  She asked if I remembered it.  After she refreshed my memory I do remember seeing it but am sure I skipped right on by as those were my "no-way-no-how" years with tomatoes and that bowl was filled with pretty much just tomatoes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Peach Crisp

The Joker by The Steve Miller Band
Holla!  There's a man in the house today!  Well, technically, there's always a man in the house, but specifically, today he's in the kitchen!  And he's my man.  And he's helping me bake!  So I thought I'd throw a tune in that I know he really likes.  It's kind of a sexy sounding song and, ladies, correct me if I'm wrong, but there's just something a little sexy about a guy cutting up fruit or stirring the pot.  Today's dessert is one my guy makes now and then and I always appreciate the break.  We're working together to bring this recipe to you today.  Better gather up your peaches because this dessert will shake your tree!  Ha!

To say that my husband likes dessert would be the understatement of the century!  He IS the cookie monster!  Although cookies are his favorite, he loves it all!  When we dine out, he always leaves room for dessert and will often request the dessert menu first to reserve his piece of pie or brownie sundae.  He is NOT a happy camper if he hears the words, "I'm sorry but we're out of the (whatever it was he had his eye on)."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I didn't spend much time in the back bedrooms at my grandma's house but I doubt she had a feather bed like the one in this song.  But the song mostly evokes the memories we have of growing up with our extended families.  I mostly remember my grandma's kitchen and my children frequently hear me  comment about how something will remind me of how her kitchen smelled.  There was sage and celery and oregano, some lingering Old Bay seasoning aromas, and the smell of onions and green peppers cooking.  To me, those smells mean peace and comfort - "old timey" scents of love.
During the last quarter of culinary school my classmates and I were put in charge of coming up with the daily specials in the cafe on campus.  It was a great experience in learning how to be creative in using the resources on hand.  We were also required to take into consideration how each dish could be executed along with the regular menu items, being sure to not place too much work on any one station.  I learned a great deal!  I enjoyed tossing ideas around with my classmate, Brian, as well as with our chef instructor, Jay, who supervised us and helped us detect potential problem areas.  Sometimes our choices for the day turned into friendly competitions to see whose sold better.

I remember one day I came up with the idea for a favorite comfort food of mine - stuffed bell peppers.  I knew that it would be a fairly easy entree to execute and I was confident in my ability to produce a very tasty dish.  I was surprised, however, when my choice was questioned.  It seemed to be the opinion of some that nobody would buy them - that they were too "old-timey."  Oh dear.  I questioned myself for about a half a second and then stood my ground.  I declared that stuffed bell peppers would sell because it had been dreary outside and people would want to eat them because it would remind them of going to grandma's house!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Elderberry Syrup

After reading the long list of healing powers and preventative properties of elderberries, I've come to the conclusion that James Brown could very well have just had himself a dose of this natural cure-all before he broke out into this song!  My goodness!  Is there anything this berry can't do?  (Well, it wasn't much help cleaning up the kitchen after the making of this syrup, that's for sure!)  The antioxidants in elderberries are used to lower cholesterol, make healthy hearts, fight colds and flu, improve your vision, as well as boost your immune system.  There are claims that it even fights viruses!  Supposedly it puts up a sort of force field around your cells to keep viruses from infecting them.  And the use of elderberries isn't a new age practice.  It's been in the remedy loop for centuries on almost every continent.  Yep - I'm feelin' pretty good myself about now!

When I was 10 years old my family moved into a home situated right on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest.  Our street came off of Route 6 at about a 45 degree angle, forming a "point" of land.  Our house was right next to this undeveloped "point."  The "point" wasn't very large at all and at any spot from within it you could still easily see our house, but to us little kids, it still seemed rather adventurous when we'd go exploring through the trees and thick growth of vegetation.

On this "point" were wild elderberry bushes.  When they were ripe my mother would corral us kids and send us out to the "point" to pick the elderberries.  We'd each find an empty pail and set out to conquer the wilds and find the elderberries so my mom could make pies, syrup, juice - it didn't matter.  I just remember that I really liked them.  We'd end up eating a good amount as we picked and, elderberries being rather pigmented, it was usually obvious from the stains on our faces and clothes that we'd enjoyed ourselves quite nicely in the harvesting!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nut & Berry Wheat Bread

Great High Mountain by Jack White
I was very, very recently introduced to this song.  I mean, I'd obviously heard it years ago as I did go to see the movie "Cold Mountain"- this song is from the soundtrack.  It flew past my radar, though, I'm sorry to say.  Very sorry, in fact.  Jack White has been the subject of a couple of discussions I've had in the past week - first with some friends of ours and then, again, a few days later, with my oldest daughter, Becca.  She was the one who pointed out the connection with the movie and suggested I have a listen.  And listen I did!  I fell in deep love immediately.  I have yet to pinpoint a standout favorite - I love them all.  But Great High Mountain is currently hedging out in front by a hair.  Please - do yourself a favor and check it out.

Today's post could be called "The Tale of Two Breads." 
or, more correct would be "The Snack That Couldn't."  

It all started with a trail mix type of snack I picked up from Costco a ways back.  
Trail mix always makes me think of hiking - I mean, isn't that what it was made for?  Hence the name, TRAIL mix?  And hiking makes me think of EXHAUSTION and BUGS and PAIN - all of which have effects that stay with you for days after.  No, I'm not really joking.  The last hill hike my daughter drug me up I listened to my much-loved Nirvana's Nevermind.  I figured the driving beats would push me up the ascent.  They did, but angrily as Kurt Cobain screamed in my ear the much-too-late advice of "gotta find a way, a better way" and then bragging that he was "On a Plain" while I was still very much in the climb.  I should have been listening to Jack White.  Great High Mountain is beautiful and inspiring -  motivating, even.  He talks of a beautiful fountain of life at the top of a mountain.  He talks about taking it step by step - making a parallel between the mountain and life.  Beautiful.  I'm thinking of seeing if we could add this to our song repertoire at church.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vanilla Bean Peach Pie

 Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie by Jay and the Techniques
It's the season to be making all of these pies that Jay and the Techniques are singing about and that's about the best season there is!  I'm all for baking things up in a pie crust - especially the sweet kind!  Even if we just make them the "ordinary" way, it's always a good idea.  But since I've had vanilla beans on my mind, I decided to use one in my peach pie.  The result - something to sing about!  "Ready or not, here I come!"  Take it away, guys!

"Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie - soon your love is gonna be all mine!"
Yep - that pretty much sums it up!

It's birthday time at tune 'n fork.  We turned 1 year old on the 8th!
A year ago I finally put all the months of hand-wringing and doubts behind me and published my very first post - my beloved Groovy Granola - which is still in my top 5 posts of all time!

I appreciate every visitor that has stopped by to see what I've had to share and say.  At the time of this post I've had 10,374 page views.  I'm really, really happy about that!  And I owe it all to you who spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!  tune 'n fork has accounts on all of those social media - did you know that?  It's true!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vanilla Extract

I'd Wait A Million Years by The Grass Roots
Some things are just worth waiting for.  And some things are worth the splurge.  And some things are best made at home.  I'm thinking today's recipe belongs in all those categories.  Now, I'm not sure I'd truly wait a MILLION years for vanilla extract, but the sentiment is the same.  Thank you, Grass Roots, for singing about those "worth-waiting-for" things!

I hate to point this out but the holiday season is fast approaching!  Did making the type smaller make it easier to hear and cause less stress?  I hope so!  It's time to be thinking about what you're going to be baking/giving and maybe even begin stocking up on some of those ingredients.

Last year I made vanilla extract to give as Christmas gifts for some of my close friends who are foodies, like me, and appreciate the finer ingredients.  It's a great gift idea!  They seemed to really appreciate it!  So, this year, whether you want to give it as a gift or just have some for your own use, it's time to get it "brewing."    It needs to sit for at least 6 weeks.

I became aware that not all vanilla extracts are the same at about nine years of age.  A family trip to Arizona brought about an opportunity for my parents to take a short excursion to a Mexican border town.  They brought back all sorts of souvenirs - sombreros, sandals, jewelry, etc. - but the most lasting and memorable, for me, was the vanilla extract!  My mom urged us all to come take a sniff.  OOOHHH MY!  What a heavenly scent!  It was explained to me that the vanilla I was used to, while still smelling nice, was artificial.  This was the real stuff.  My mom made that bottle last for a long time!  Everything she baked with it smelled and tasted wonderful!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Brownie Truffles

I know, I know.  The Stylistics were the original artists who released the song in 1974.  But, you see, I have this thing for Simply Red.  Can't explain it. Not gonna make excuses either.  The nod goes to Mick Hucknall's vocals today.  When he sings I kinda feel like a truffle - and that's all I'm gonna say about that!  Get those brownie scraps from out of the freezer and play this song.  They'll be room temp in no time!

Remember these brownie scraps from the Ramped Up Brownie Mix?
I had strongly urged you to save the scraps after cutting fun shapes from the cooked brownies.  I hope you did just that because today we're going to use those scraps!